Captain Banti Awokou walked slowly with his wife. Together they watched the denizens of the recovering city catching the waning rays of sunlight before dusk settled in. Rozi paused to smile at a father playing with his two hatchlings.
Banti’s smile was tinged with sadness. They had never had children. There had been no time for it, and it was at times like these he regretted that decision. He wondered if Rozi did, but he was too afraid to ask.
It wasn’t too late for either of them, though Banti doubted he had the energy to corral young children these days. He barely had enough to manage his starship. And he wondered, somewhat facetiously, if the nanites holding him together would meet their match courtesy of his progeny.
Rozi leaned in close to him and wrapped her hand in his. Banti sniffed her air. “This park is beautiful,” his wife said. “And the people, so peaceful, even after all the tragedy that’s befallen them.”
“Yes,” Awokou said. Some xenophobia at the presence of aliens wouldn’t have been unexpected, especially since the capital was still recovering from an alien attack. However the captain had experienced nothing but graciousness from the Eonessans. The Vaphorans were another matter. His dealings with them had thus far been polite, but noticeably distant.
The Eonessans weren’t as put off by their coldness as Banti had been. Of course, with the Vaphorans saving the Eonessans from the brain fever, the captain could see why the Eonessans would be so accommodating of their standoffishness.
Soon the Vaphorans wouldn’t be a concern. Banti was expecting Starfleet Command to issue new orders for the Aldebaran any day now. The mysterious assailants hadn’t returned in two months and it was a growing likelihood that they would not return.
With mixed feelings the captain looked forward to returning to Federation space. He didn’t like not completing his mission to the Delta Quadrant, but he also didn’t mind returning to more familiar territory, which actually wasn’t so familiar due to his being out of commission for so long. It would still be exploration and he was fine with that.
“You know the Eonessans remind me of us,” Rozi said.
“How so?” Banti asked.
“Well, there level of development is roughly analogous to 22nd century Earth,” his wife pointed out. “But I was thinking more so of their social strides. How they evolved beyond a caste based society, similar to how we overcame all of our divisions.”
Rozi had been spending a lot of time with Eonessan historians and they had been delighted to share their history with her. Rozi had been equally as forthcoming, and as standard with his wife, she had made several friends. Banti knew parting from them would be difficult for his wife, but she was a veteran enough to understand the nature of the business.
“Yet they did it without a first contact situation,” Banti said, recalling his history lessons of Earth’s first contact with Vulcan and how that unified humanity in ways still hard to fathom.
“Yes,” Rozi nodded, “They did it without that prompt. Impressive.”
“I can only imagine where the Eonessans can go next,” Banti speculated.
“And how the Vaphorans will play a role in their future development,” Shadows crossed over Rozi’s face, and they weren’t all caused by the fading sun.
“That troubles you,” Banti surmised.
“It’s just that we know so little about them,” the first contact specialist admitted. “And they have such an outsized sway over the Eonessans. What if they use it in exploitative ways?”
“Do you think they’ve done so thus far?”
“No,” Rozi admitted. “I can’t say that. They’ve mostly kept to themselves, but still the degree that the Eonessans revere them borders on religious fervor, and I don’t think that’s healthy.”
“Maybe,” Banti said.
“Maybe? That’s all you’re giving me?” Rozi cocked an eyebrow.
“The Vaphorans did save them from a pandemic,” Banti allowed, “And with the Eonessans being an effusive people, from what I can tell, the esteem in which they hold the Vaphorans seems in keeping. Besides, religious fervor doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Consider the Bajorans and their Prophets.”
“True,” Rozi conceded, “Yet the Prophets aren’t flesh and blood. And they reside in a wormhole above the planet. I could see why the Bajorans would come to worship them. I’m less sanguine about doing the same for mortals.”
“Well, the Eonessans haven’t set up any church for the Vaphorans,” Banti said.
“Yet,” Rozi pursed her lips.
Banti smiled, “Yet,” he said. “But really it is their purview to do so if they are so inclined. And it’s not our place to interfere.”
“I know,” his wife nestled close to him and Banti wrapped his arm around her, at the hips. “It just raises my hackles is all.”
“You’ve grown fond of the Eonessans, as we all have, I think,” Banti said. “I don’t want them to be hurt or used either. But from what we’ve seen of the Vaphorans I think it would be unfair to accuse them of such intentions.”
“You’re right,” Rozi said, though with less conviction.
“Everything is going to be alright, Love,” Banti promised. “Not everyone has ulterior motives.”
“I know that too, but I just have a hard time believing it,” his wife smiled. Banti chuckled.
“Look at us, we’ve talked through the sunset,” the captain said. Darkness had fallen across the park and street lamps had come on.
“Perhaps we can just watch the sunset tomorrow,” Rozi said.
“I guess there always is tomorrow,” Banti said. He leaned down to kiss his wife. On the edge of his consciousness he heard a familiar whine and felt a tingling across his skin.
His wife disappeared in his grasp and his lips touched the air. He blinked, surprised, and momentarily confused.
Tapping his combadge, he barked, “Aldebaran, why did you just transport my wife back to the ship?”
A startled Commander Thayer replied, “Sir, we didn’t.”
“Then where is she? What just happened?” Banti demanded. Neither of them had an answer.